Dance Lest We All Fall Down: Breaking Cycles of Poverty in Brazil and Beyond

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An American anthropologist takes an extended detour through Brazil that draws her into a kaleidoscopic world of street kids, capoeiristas, and drug dealers. She and an African Brazilian colleague think about breaking the cycles of poverty and violence that affect Brazil's black underclass. And thus is born Bahia Street, a free-thinking NGO that provides education, healthcare, food, and counseling for girls from the slums of Salvador.

In a narrative brimming with honesty and grace, Dance Lest We All Fall Down unfolds the story of this remarkable alliance, from Margaret Willson's arrival in Brazil in 1991 to the graduation of Bahia Street's first college-bound student in 2005. The experience of Willson and Bahia Street partner Rita Conceição, seasoned with friendship as well as crises and triumphs, models a new way of working together to tackle entrenched social problems.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of Latin American Studies - Marit Ursin
The book is accessible to a broad range of readers... Although Dance Lest We All Fall Down should not be read as an ABC of starting an NGO, the book certainly provides invaluable inspiration, reflection, and ideas on how to proceed.
The Bookmonger
An emotionally affecting book. It makes a strong case for local empowerment...
… Margaret Willson's story about founding a school for poor girls in a favela in Salvador, Brazil, combines Eat, Pray, Love's romantic self-discoveries with the can-do idealism of Three Cups of Tea.
The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
a text written passionately, sincerely, and sentimentally; all in the very best sense of all these terms. To understand Bahia, one needs mandinga, mischievousness, and the ability to interpret the true meaning of a smile…. Capoeira, a form of combat that is also a dance, is a fine metaphor for Willson's struggles to feel, to change, and to represent Bahia…. Margaret Willson, Rita Conceicao, and the girls of Bahia Street became experts in how to learn and how to teach such lessons.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780295990583
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 817,774
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

-John Collins , Anthropology, City University of New York

University of Washington Press

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

part 1 learning to dance

1 Seduction 1

2 The First Return 13

3 Agnaldo and Candomblé 25

4 Letting Salvador Inside 35

5 Learning to Dance 45

6 A Dangerous Embrace 53

7 Marginals 63

8 Sex and Friendship 71

9 Rain 83

10 Burnt Knives 91

11 A Stranger 101

part 2 treading water

12 Encountering Seattle 111

13 Ideas 117

14 Life Change 125

15 Letting the Outer Skin Be Social 135

16 Of Race and Remembrance 143

17 More Sides of Bahia 153

18 A View Into the Abyss 163

19 Power and Presence 177

20 Trust 185

21 Tall Poppy 199

22 A Shadowed Color of Shade 209

part 3 laughter lessons

23 Leaves of Understanding 219

24 Love 229

25 Barriers of Glass 239

26 Storms 249

27 Sharing a Lifeboat 259

28 Heartbreak 271

29 Evolution 283

30 Resting on the Wings of a Butterfly 293

Afterword 301

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